One of the first steps in a body transformation is to reduce dependence on emotional eating. The percentage of food you eat based on emotions has to be lowered, and if possible, totally eradicated.
Physical hunger occurs when your stomach is empty. Your body triggers the release of the ‘hunger hormone’ Ghrelin from the stomach and small intestine. This chemical messenger travels up to your brain where it reaches the hypothalamus. Your brain then tells you that you should eat something.
Physical hunger can manifest itself in several ways:
- Feeling of emptiness in stomach
- Gurgling, rumbling or growling in stomach
- Dizziness, faintness or light-headedness
- Lack of concentration
Emotional hunger is triggered when your body doesn’t need food, and yet you feel the need to eat anyway. It can be caused by:
- Seeing or smelling food. You walk into a room and see a freshly baked chocolate cake glistening with icing. Despite having just had lunch, your ‘desert stomach’ is good to go, and you eat a big slice.
- Imagining the taste. Your friend mentions something delicious they recently ate. You start thinking about it and how much you want it.
- Depression. You are more likely to overeat if you are not feeling yourself, or a something bad has happened to you that leaves you feeling down (the ice-cream scene in Bridget Jones’ Diary anyone?)
- Boredom. Got nothing to do? It’s all to easy to fill your time with eating.
- Unconscious eating. You don’t think about what you are putting in your mouth. Maybe you are busy doing something else or talking to someone. The distraction means you can’t concentrate on how much you are eating or more importantly the implications of eating.
How to Break Free From Emotional Eating
1. Eat conciously
Imagine a physical hunger scale with 1 being ridiculously hungry and 10 being stuffed to the point of being sick (think post eating a large Dominos pizza followed immediately by a curry takeaway).
Your goal is to avoid the red areas. However, in order to know if you are crossing into the red areas when eating, you must pay attention whenever you put something into your mouth. Really listen to the feedback your body is giving you. Are you eating because you are at a level 3 (fairly hungry)? Or are you actually at a level 6 (pleasantly satisfied) already and only eating because the food is within reach?
If you are eating at levels 6-10 then this is emotional eating. Step away from the food.
2. Think about the implications
Whenever you put food into your mouth, ask yourself if what you are doing pushes you towards or away from your goal. Trust me, you will know which one it is.
If you are about to eat a piece of cake or a biscuit, imagine the impact it is going to have on your figure. Imagine the sugar coursing through your veins, triggering a surge of insulin that forces the body to store fat. Imagine the feeling you will get 1 hour after eating that little ‘treat’. That sickly, nauseous feeling associated with a sugar spike and then the inevitable sugar low. Think how lethargic and depressed you will feel having poisoned your body with crap.
That chocolate fudge sundae doesn’t look so appetising now, does it?
3. Plan meals
Know when and what you are going to eat during the day. You don’t have to write a detailed meal plan, just know roughly where, when and what you are going to eat.
For example, if you are going to a restaurant in the evening, then check out the menu online. Decide what you are going to order before you go and stick to it. Better yet, phone a friend who is coming with you and tell them your order in advance.
If you work in an office all day, then one eating strategy is to prepare your lunch at home the evening before. Not only will you save money, but you’ll never have to rely on their being good food nearby again.
4. Develop a routine
You will fair much better if you get into, then stick with an eating routine.
Studies have shown that the release of Ghrelin (the hunger hormone we talked about earlier) is somewhat routine – meaning if you always have lunch at 1pm, then your body will start making your feel hungry about then. By keeping your meal times relatively constant, it is easier to stick to an eating plan, and reset your Ghrelin release timings.
5. Eat more!
You may be surprised by this one. “I am meant to be on a diet, and yet you are telling me to eat more!?” I hear you cry.
Listen, trust me when I say that you will never be able to keep your weight down and lose fat in the long run if you are always dieting. When you stop dieting you will gain the weight right back, possible more.
You must understand that the amount of food you are eating is not what is making you fat! It is the type of foods you eat that is.
Attempting to beat hunger and eat less food than your body is asking for is not possible forever. I advise you to eat good foods, and eat as much as you want of them. You won’t feel hungry, you’ll always be satisfied, and as a result you won’t be tempted to binge on foods that will make you fat.
The moral of this tale is that, if you are serious about transformation your body and losing fat, you need to learn to listen to physical hunger cues. Eat when you feel them. Don’t eat when you don’t feel them. You’ll never have to ‘diet again’.